The eucalyptus is native to Australia, although it can be found throughout the world in varied environments including alpine, desert and wetland regions. It is a diverse species dominated by evergreens that range in size from low shrubs to very tall trees. Eucalyptus leaves are well known as the staple of the koala's diet. But the entire eucalyptus plant - its wood, flower nectar, leaves and oil - is also prized for its many benefits for people and the environment.
To reduce malaria, water-loving eucalyptus trees can be planted to drain marshes and swamps which are a favorite breeding ground of mosquitoes. To decrease the salinity in soil, salt-tolerant eucalyptus trees can help lower the water table. To supply a region with timber and firewood, eucalyptus wood is both fast-growing and dense. As a paper source, eucalyptus wood fibers are suitably shorter and more uniform than other hardwoods. To reduce fossil fuel dependence, eucalyptus hardwood is considered a bioenergy option. As a windbreak for crops and communities, the eucalyptus roots keep the tree anchored while its leaves help direct potentially damaging gusts upward.
Eucalyptus is also an active ingredient in modern medical formulations, after being renowned as a folk remedy for centuries. The earliest inhabitants of Australia, these Australian Aborigines, treated fevers with eucalyptus leaf teas, and wounds and infections with eucalyptus poultices. Prior to the advent of chemical cleaners, eucalyptus oil was used to disinfect hospital equipment and freshen rooms. Today, eucalyptus honey, eucalyptus leaves and eucalyptus oil are used for treating a myriad of ailments.
To heal minor skin abrasions and soothe insect bites and stings, eucalyptus honey can be applied to the affected area because it has antiseptic properties. Massaging eucalyptus honey into the skin may also alleviate joint pain and muscle stiffness. Those with a known bee allergy should avoid honey products. To repel mosquitoes, the CDC reports that the oil of lemon eucalyptus is as effective as low concentrations of DEET.
For the common cold, including sinus congestion and coughs, eucalyptus is a decongestant and can be found in rubs, hot steam vaporizer medications, and cough drops. Sore throats may be relieved with eucalyptus teas and gargle solutions. To loosen and clear the phlegm associated with bronchitis, an eucalyptus-based expectorant may be helpful.
To kill dust mites, a common cause of allergies and asthma, add eucalyptus oil to laundry detergent before washing sheets, blankets, pillows, curtains, and soft-cloth toys. To rid a mattress of dust mites, drops of eucalyptus oil can be added to distilled water and liquid organic soap before lightly spraying the mattress surface. The same solution can be sprayed on carpets before vacuuming.
Those suffering from mental fatigue and stress may find that a bath or shower infused with eucalyptus oil is rejuvenating. Eucalyptus has a distinctive camphor and pine-like scent and is considered a stimulant. Its warming affect may ease aches and chills, as well. Bathing products that contain eucalyptus include soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and bath additives such as salts and oils.
To maintain good oral health, brushing with a toothpaste that contains eucalyptus, and rinsing with a mouthwash that also contains eucalyptus, will help kill the bacteria that can cause bad breath, plaque, and gum disease.
To treat gastrointestinal distress, eucalyptus may help to clear germs from the digestive system because it is an antiviral and antibacterial. Before ingesting any eucalyptus product, consult a doctor for the proper dosage. Taking undiluted eucalyptus oil by mouth can be fatal. Seek medical attention immediately if there is stomach pain, dizziness, or muscle weakness, as it may indicate eucalyptus poisoning.
Eucalyptus also is an effective remedy for skin concerns because of its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Eucalyptus-based ointments can be used to treat serious infections such as burns, wounds, and ulcers. Over-the-counter products containing eucalyptus can be used to clear acne and eczema. Eucalyptus-based formulations include cleansers, pads, toners, masks, and spot treatments. To minimize the irritation caused by shaving, eucalyptus oil can be found in topical solutions for before, during and after shaving. Eucalyptus can be used by all skin types, however, it is not recommended for those with sensitive skin. Do not apply eucalyptus oil directly to the skin. Instead, it should be diluted as directed by a health care provider.